Ghosts by Dolly Alderton – review

Published by Penguin

Publication date – 22 July 2021

Source – review copy

Nina Dean has arrived at her early thirties as a successful food writer with loving friends and family, plus a new home and neighbourhood. When she meets Max, a beguiling romantic hero who tells her on date one that he’s going to marry her, it feels like all is going to plan.

A new relationship couldn’t have come at a better time – her thirties have not been the liberating, uncomplicated experience she was sold. Everywhere she turns, she is reminded of time passing and opportunities dwindling. Friendships are fading, ex-boyfriends are moving on and, worse, everyone’s moving to the suburbs. There’s no solace to be found in her family, with a mum who’s caught in a baffling mid-life makeover and a beloved dad who is vanishing in slow-motion into dementia.

To Ghost – to cut off all communication with someone without explanation.

Nina Dean has just turned 32. She is single, moderately successful and she thinks content enough. When she signs up for online dating she doesn’t expect much. Then she meets Max. Max who tells her he will marry her on their first date. Max who seems to sweep her off her feet. But is it all too good to be true?

Ghosts is a year in the life of Nina George Dean, food writer, friend, daughter and potential lover. Whilst content in her life she feels something is missing. Encouraged by her friend Lola, and lamenting the lack of opportunity to date in the methods of her twenties, she signs up for online dating. Lola guides her through the unwritten rules of swiping, responding to messages and reading between the lines of profiles. Nina examines this, becomes weary at the games to be played just to meet someone for a date.

Having not been in the position of dating during my thirties, it was interesting to see the viewpoint of women navigating the mine-field of online dating, albeit in a fictionalised form.

Whilst there is ghosting in the modern sense of dating there are other ghosts that Nina must exorcise. Whilst she has adjusted to moving from lover to best friend with her ex-boyfriend, Joe and has to come to terms with the fact he is different with his new girlfriend. Nina comments at one point that his girlfriend is benefitting from all the nagging she did. She is also dealing with her dad’s declining health, haunted by the father she remembers and the memories she unearths to help him through his dementia.

There is some humour though it comes from, and is often directed towards, Nina’s friend Lola. Having swam in the dating waters for a while, Lola is depicted as almost desperate to partner up. She is however a point of strength for Nina. Nina isn’t that complimentary to those friends who have found partners, which is perhaps contradictory to her position for that year of the book to her want to find love. She’s not impressed that her best friend, Katherine, wants to move out of London. She feels left behind because she sees their conversation as one-sided. Yet during their interactions the reader doesn’t see Nina make more than a cursory effort at understanding the life changes involved in having children, and the restrictions that they inevitably put on new parents time or how priorities have to change, no matter the intentions before becoming pregnant. She looks at her friend and sees her as happy, so doesn’t ask if she is and then resents that Katherine doesn’t ask Nina how she herself is feeling. Nina has in essence decided to ghost Katherine, without really realising it, intent on cutting ties without a thought of how that would effect the severed person on the other side.

A modern take on (not) finding love, this is more about finding comfort in who you are and ensuring the people that surround you are the ones who you really love, romantically or not.


2 Comments Add yours

  1. I’m not sure about this one – Nina sounds really self-involved. Is she massively irritating or do you end up liking her in the end?


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